Are you longing to become a better baker? I’ve been baking my heart out for six years and I’ve learned SO much along the way. The tips that I’m about to share with you are all things that I wish I had learned as soon as I’d started; it would have saved me alot of time, energy, and wasted cake. But I’m not complaining, all that practice lead me to where I am now; I’m just a girl who LOVES to bake and wants to share that love with you. So keep reading to learn my tips on how YOU can become a better baker!
How I Learned To Bake…
If you don’t know me personally or have never checked out my About Me page, then you probably don’t know this: I’m actually not a 100% self taught baker. In fact, I spent the first 19 years of my life far, far away from the kitchen. My only cooking skill was making a grilled cheese sandwich and my only baking skill was opening a box of funfetti cupcake mix and then decorating the cupcakes by scraping pre-made storebought frosting onto the said cupcakes with a knife!
Wow. That’s slightly embarrassing, but we all start somewhere, right? It wasn’t until my third year of college when my dorm room had a kitchen in it. With no more cafeteria meals on the horizon for me I had to start fending for myself–so of course I took to Pinterest and truly just fell in love with food and the art of food, especially BAKING.
With an itch to create edible beauty with my hands, I did one year of culinary school. Yep! I got a certificate and everything. I learned alot, and my culinary education was quite rounded as it covered cooking, baking, culinary mathematics, and business, so unfortunately my main focus was never baking.
But I did however learn the fundamentals of baking, which is the most important thing one could ever learn. If your cake doesn’t have a strong foundation, or its ingredient components are all outta whack, then what’s the point in spending hours trying to decorate it?
That one year of culinary school taught me so much about being a better baker but the five years after that of me spending long hours in my kitchen practicing my piping and stacking cakes is all self-taught. (Note: Self-taught to me includes watching tutorials on Youtube–I learned a ton of cake decorating skills from Youtube videos!)
With that said, I’m going to share with you my best tips on how YOU can become a better baker!
Begin With A Clean Kitchen
I can’t even stress this one enough. If I know I have a day of baking coming up, the night before I will take like 15 minutes to clean the kitchen. I’ll get those counter tops spotless, empty that sink, and empty the dishwasher.
It’s the best feeling in the world waking up to a clean kitchen! (Said only adults, right?!) Of course it’s inevitable that it’ll just get messy again, but I stand behind the thought: the cleaner the kitchen, the cleaner your brain. When the physical environment around me is in orderly condition, then my brain can work in an organized fashion, thus, making me a better baker.
Carefully Read Over Your Recipe
This is KEY to becoming a better baker. Do this the day or the night before you start baking. Sit down, and read over it carefully and slowly, skipping over nothing. You don’t want to run into any surprises in the middle of your baking endeavor.
Always make sure you have enough time to execute your recipe. For example, dough needs to rest for over an hour most of the time. Homemade pie dough needs to be chilled for 4 hours or even overnight. Most cakes need room temperature ingredients, so you need to give your butter, eggs, and milk time to gradually warm up to room temp. Cakes fresh out of the oven need time to cool before you can frost on them. (Have you ever frosted a warm cake? What a mess!) Everything takes time so planning out a baking schedule is always a good idea.
Every recipe is different and therefore require different materials to bake and decorate it. For example, you’re not gonna get smooth edges on a layer cake without a cake scraper. And you’re not gonna get far in piping those beautiful buttercream flowers if you don’t have piping bags (I just bought this dispenser box of 100 piping bags! Life-changing!), or decorating tips. Ensure you have ALL the materials necessary to successfully complete your baking project!
Woo! This is a big one. When I’m going over my recipe, I’m simultaneously sifting through my cupboards, refrigerator, and freezer checking off each ingredient one by one to make sure I have it. If I don’t have an ingredient, then I just type it into my phone’s Notes app so that the next time I go grocery shopping I just need to check my Notes for my grocery list.
I’m always super meticulous about that because there’s nothing worse than being half way through a recipe only to realize I’m missing an ingredient. If you want to be a better baker, you need to be prepared.
Mise En Place Your Ingredients
Speaking of ingredients, it’s always a good idea to “mise en place” your ingredients a.k.a “put them in place”. Do this to the best of your ability. You also don’t need to go overboard with this, for instance, you won’t ever catch me putting a teaspoon of baking powder into one bowl, and a pinch of salt into another bowl; I’m not THAT meticulous and you don’t have to be either. (That just means more dishes then!) 😛
I like to start putting all the ingredients I need on the kitchen counter. I’ll then measure the dry ingredients into one bowl, spices/powders into another, and wet ingredients into another–depending on what the recipe calls for. As soon as I’m done measuring one ingredient, I’ll put its box back in the cupboard. When I’ve used my vanilla extract, I put it back onto its shelf. This is a personal technique I use that visually tells me that I’ve already used that ingredient and therefore won’t make the mistake of using it twice.
It’s so easy to get distracted while measuring out your ingredients, either your husband’s talking to you, or someone’s knockin’ at your front door, or your siblings keep texting you, or your kids are hanging off your legs. (I haven’t experienced the kids one yet, but I’ve heard stories…)
Clean As You Go
I like to keep a bowl of hot soapy water in my sink so that as soon as I’m done using my lemon zester or my measuring spoon I just toss it in the bowl. They soak and disinfect while I’m baking so they practically clean themselves and food doesn’t even get a chance to harden onto the utensil, so rinsing off the dishes is a breeze. Plus, your countertops stay clutter-free and therefore your mind stays clutter-free.
Also, as soon as you put your cinnamon buns (or whatever you happen to be baking) into the oven, immediately start cleaning everything up! Don’t even think about sitting down or else you’ll never get up again. Haha (speaking from experience here!)
Know Your Oven.
I always set my timer for about five minutes less than what the recipe calls for, just in case my oven runs hotter than the recipe authors’ oven . Cookies for example take no time at all and can burn quickly; you can still continue to bake underbaked cookies, but you can’t save burnt cookies.
And speaking of setting a timer, ALWAYS set a timer. I absolutely love my Kitchenaid Digital Timer.
This tip is one that I wish I would have done from DAY ONE. I have a binder containing all of my–laminated–recipes along with notes that I took. If you tweak your recipe in any way, write it down. What if that last batch of cookies you baked was your best yet but now it’s 3 months later and you have absolutely no idea what you did or how much of whatever you added that made it so perfect? What a shame that’d be.
Often I’ll have a round cake recipe that I decide to make into a batch of cupcakes instead. I’ll take notes on how full I made the cupcake liners with batter, how many cupcakes I got out of that recipe, and how long it baked for. So the next time I want to bake cupcakes, I don’t need to waste anytime guessing–I already have it written down in my notes!
Ask For Honest Feedback
If you bring a bad dessert to a gathering, no one is going to go out of their way to tell you that your dessert was just way too sweet, salty, underbaked, dry, flavourless, ect. In fact most people will try avoiding the topic of your dessert altogether.
However, if you’re like me and take your baking really seriously, you WANT to be critiqued on it! When I was testing out a new recipe for a wedding cake I did a few years ago, I baked that cake at least three times prior and made sure that my taste-testers knew that I wanted honest feedback. I mean, this was going to be served to hundreds of people! It had to be perfect!
I truly appreciate the people in my life who tell me the honest truth about my baking, because if they don’t tell me, then who will? How am I supposed to become a better baker if people are telling me my desserts are fine when they’re really not?
Constructive criticism is just that, it’s constructive! It builds you into a better baker.
When you’re testing out new recipes, give out your baked goods to your family, friends, and neighbours with intention that all you ask for in return is constructive criticism. They get free food, you get honest feedback, you make a few friends along the way…it’s a win win! (Trust me, you make alot of friends if you’re generous with your desserts!)
Be Creative–Reflect YOU.
The fundamentals of baking are rigid, and you have to be so by the book or else your cake could cave in on itself. I’m totally a by the book person which is why I’m so drawn to baking over cooking. The basics are strict, but when it comes to the flavouring aspect or the decorating aspect, that’s all YOU baby!
Are you that person who is completely obsessed with coffee-flavoured everything? Then add espresso powder to your favourite muffin recipe! Just do it!
Is the name of your blog Flour & Floral and you’re just totally in love with all-things floral? (Haha!) Then pipe or paint buttercream flowers onto your cakes, cupcakes, and cookies. As you can probably tell, I love pastels, and feminine light colour schemes and therefore my baking reflects that. Let YOUR baking reflect YOU.
Sometimes the best baked goods happen when you just throw caution to the wind and aren’t afraid to experiment!
Now Go and Be a Better Baker!
There’s much more I could say about how to become a better baker, but then this blog post would never end. Plus, let’s be honest, I’m also not even close to learning everything there is to learn! There’s so much out there in the baking world just waiting to be experimented and explored! Right?!
I hope this blog post gave you some insight on baking. Follow me on Instagram or Facebook for more daily baking, cake decorating, and even food photography tips and inspiration! And if you have any questions at all, message me or leave a comment below! I’d love to hear from you.
Are You Interested in Food Photography?
Now that you’ve become a better baker, check out my How To Style Food For Food Food Photography tutorial! There’s nothing better than baking something beautiful, and then taking the time to style and photograph it! Every gorgeous baked good deserves I photoshoot, wouldn’t you agree? 😉